Digital Transformation: Why Enterprises Need Progressive Web Apps

progressive web apps
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Your customers don’t want to wait. They don’t want to wait for your app or web page to load, or for their network to catch up with their needs. They don’t even want to wait till they’re back online.
No matter your business or industry, your enterprise can’t afford to make your customers wait. A DoubleClick by Google study found that 53% of mobile site visits are abandoned if pages take longer than 3 seconds to load. It also found that the average load time over 3G connections for mobile sites is 19 seconds. So what’s an enterprise to do?
Over the past few years, in an effort to provide a better user experience and remove barriers to usage, enterprises as diverse as Twitter, Pinterest, Starbucks, Uber, Lyft, Forbes, and The Washington Post have embraced the trend toward progressive web apps (PWAs) in their enterprise mobile strategies. And those PWAs are paying fairly massive dividends:

What Is a Progressive Web App (PWA)?

So what the heck is a PWA? Put simply, it’s a responsive web app that looks, feels, and functions like a mobile app. Since PWAs run within browsers, they don’t require downloading. They can be added to devices’ home screens just like native apps. And the way they work means that typical barriers to usage — such as slow networks, lack of connectivity or storage, data usage limitations, security concerns, and general reluctance to downloading — are effectively removed.
Per Google, PWAs fit these requirements:

  • They require a valid, secure HTTPS connection.

  • They require a valid JSON web app manifest. The manifest controls the PWA’s appearance, supporting native-like orientation, icons, controls, interactions, and launching.

  • They use service workers to complete background tasks (e.g., updating, caching, data manipulation, push notifications) and enable access to cached content while offline.

  • To be offered the “add to home screen” option, users must visit twice with at least five minutes between visits.

What Benefits Can a PWA Provide to My Enterprise?

Google’s developer site offers dozens of case studies showcasing the benefits businesses are reaping from PWAs. These benefits include:

  • Versatility. PWAs can provide a consistent app-like experience on any device. Depending on browser capabilities, PWAs automatically and progressively enhance their built-in features to look and feel like a native app.

  • Increased speed and reliability. PWAs load instantly regardless of network conditions, including while offline. Offline versions have full user interface capabilities, rendering complete pages without additional loading. Scrolling is instant and interfaces respond quickly. With its PWA, The Weather Channel reported an 80% improvement in load time.

  • Reduced data needs. PWAs send less data for initial page loads and first transactions. They don’t need to constantly ping servers to access data. They also take up much less space on devices.

  • Universal accessibility. Since it’s just a web link, there are no geographic restrictions on reach.

  • Freedom from app stores. There’s no need to build and market separate apps on the App Store and Google Play. There’s no need to submit your app for review, and no risk of rejection. Users simply access your PWA via a secure URL that can be easily shared.

  • Freedom from downloads. Since users don’t need to download anything, they’re less hesitant to try it. There’s no need to download updates, either.

  • Improved searchability. Search engines view PWAs as websites, which means they’re easily indexed. (Native apps aren’t searchable.)

  • Improved conversion rates. Many companies report increased conversion rates from their PWAs. For example, AliExpress enjoyed a 104% increase in new-user conversion rates.

  • Reduced bounce rates. Housing.com saw their bounce rate — the percentage of visitors who visit a website and leave without viewing any additional pages — fall by more than 40%.

  • Increased engagement. PWAs provide a satisfyingly immersive, app-like user experience. Since content is available offline, connectivity doesn’t limit engagement. Many companies reported significantly increased engagement, including increased time spent per session (in the case of Flipkart, triple the time), more pages visited per session, and increased success in using push notifications to re-engage users.

  • Money saved on development. Many existing websites can be upgraded to become PWAs. In addition, the baseline technology stacks used (e.g., HTML, CSS, JavaScript) are common among developers.

  • Effort saved on development. If something breaks, you simply fix it. It’s also easier to make updates. Google’s developer site provides guidance and tools (e.g., Google Lighthouse, which audits PWAs to make them better).

Should I Consider a PWA in My Enterprise Mobile Strategy?

PWAs are still emerging tech. Currently, that means not all browsers are supported, and there’s still limited access to native APIs. For some businesses, native apps will still be a better choice.
That said, it’s worth revisiting your enterprise mobile strategy to consider whether a PWA may be the right choice. After all, the potential benefits are incredibly impressive. Your existing website code may even prove a good starting point, letting you start slowly and scale over time. Ultimately, a PWA may be the right next step toward supporting your enterprise’s digital transformation.
 
 

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